Between April and June there are so many changes in the garden as it springs into life. As an artist there is such an abundance of visual information at Denmans at this time of year making it hard to know where to begin or what to focus on.
From April to May there were the bluebells and primroses in the woodland area followed by the stunning display of blossom, magnolia and Denmans’ very special pink wisteria.
The shaded woodland area still draws me to it and I can sketch tucked away under the trees, endeavouring to capture the light shining through the leaves with one of John Brookes’ beautiful blue benches serving as the perfect drying easel.
May also saw John Brookes’ trademark yellow tulips which gradually turn to white, appearing in the walled garden – they really got my attention and June saw the arrival of the magnificent red poppies.
The year is racing by, and the challenge is now on to pull the sketches together to create my finished selection of pieces for the exhibition later in the year.
Returning to my abstract painting heroes, Ivon Hitchens and Howard Hodgkin, I am finding myself torn between the safety of loose, impressionistic realism and the difficulties of abstraction where the painting is defined by colour, shape & composition with the goal of creating a feeling of the place rather than an accurate visual representation.
As with the huge choice of what to paint in the garden, there are also so many options of how to paint it! Considerations about medium, scale, size, portrait or landscape all come in to play as I work with my initial sketches and impressions from work in the garden.
As I have referenced in earlier blogs, spending time as artist in residence in this beautiful space is like keeping a visual diary of the year, and an opportunity to watch and reflect on the transience of nature; taking time to stop and look – often noticing the small detail or expressing the obvious in a different way. It’s this slowing down to purposefully look, quietly observing and recording what attracts my attention juxtaposed with the larger, complete sensory experience of sight, sound, and fragrance that I am aiming to capture with my work as an artist.
There is still so much to look forward to in the summer months with the waterlilies flowering in the ponds and the delphiniums blooming in the walled garden to name but two. I am sure that the next period of the summer and the gradual easing in to autumn are going to race by as quickly as the past season has and my focus will be in depicting these fleeting moments as the seasons progress.
Jo’s exhibition, ‘Reflections: An Artist’s Year at Denmans Garden’ will run at Denmans from Saturday 3 November – Saturday 22 December 2023 10am-4pm daily. Free entrance.
For further information on the exhibition and Jo’s next series of watercolour workshops at Denmans Garden and how to book go to https://www.denmans.org/events/
Jo is recording her experiences and observations about her work at Denmans and elsewhere on her blog and Instagram page and we will include further updates on the garden’s website blog as the year goes on.
For more information on Jo go to https://jodowersart.com/ @jodowers